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Proud Earthling

By popular request I will present you a small selection of photos from my Easter holiday trip to Romania and Croatia via Hungary. In the evening of April 17 2011 I entered the ÖBB sleeping coach of D 347 "Dacia" from Vienna to Bucarest. Despite purchasing a three berth compartment ticket I had the compartment to myself, my favourite type with plenty of space in a 1950s P class coach, although the ride quality is not the best. I had a short night's sleep ahead of me, 7 hours to Arad, where we were scheduled to arrive at 4 a.m. East European standard time, so 3 a.m. to my Central European inner clock. The night passed quietly apart from an application of the emergency brakes at 1 a.m., after which railroaders came to wake up our conductor. With a total of 30 minutes delay we reached the border, where controls were still going on but not very strictly. The delay was not inconvenient to me as I would have to wait for an hour anyway. At Arad we arrived at the first platform which is kept in good shape everywhere I went in Romania, the signs reminded me of Italy. After I had filmed the departure of "Dacia" behind a class 47 to Brasov and Bukarest, I used the pedestrian subway to the last of the two secondary platforms, where everything was rather run down. The bordering freight tracks were quite busy, also many private operators were passing providing nice diversity. The rake of my local passenger train P 3123 Arad - Brad was approached by a class 65 diesel, the coupling procedure was performed by a gang of cheerful shunting workers. I entered the dark train which I was only about to use for half an hour's ride to Sântana (also called Sintana, = "Saint Ann"). Shortly before departing a private freight with leading "U-Boat" class diesel came by, sadly not filmable.

We used the mainline back to Hungary for a short distance until the diesel line, double track up to Sântana, branched off north. The conductors came by controlling the tickets equipped with a torch light, the lighting inside the coaches was not very reliable. Funnily I was already nicknamed "Paparazzi" after spending just a few minutes on the platform beside the train!
At Sântana I got out into a delightful morning mood, it still was dark, but the horizon already lit up. Everywhere around me roosters were waking up providing a great crowing concert. The class 65 dieseled off on the line to Ineu and Brad, while a former SNCF X 4500 "Caravelle" of private operator RegioTrans left Sântana towards Arad. The setting moon posed a great sight turning into a deep red colour.
Through the darkness I marched along the tracks avoiding a couple of guard dogs. But soon I had reached the northern end of the station, junction of the lines to Oradea and Ineu. Earth mounds left over from construction activity made a view across the completely flat plains to the mountains in the distance possible.

Tren accelerat (semi-fast train) A 1744 Baia Mare - Timisoara as Desiro DMU could be captured in front of the moon.

One reason for my early presence was the only Malaxa class 77-9xx service from Arad, the early train to Chisineu Cris (Cris is the river (or rather rivers) which gives this area its name Crisana, to the south it is bordering on Banat region). Punctually at half past six P 3729 came along, formed of a rustic pair of Malaxa railbusses.

The train, as usual in Romania with a very friendly driver in charge, rattled towards the imminent sunrise.

Finally the sun rose above the hills, in the foreground telegraph lines typical of this region.

The next highlight consisted of P 3112 Oradea - Timisoara Nord, hauled by a class 62 Sulzer, a 120 kph fast version of class 60.

Soon afterwards a Desiro passed by northwards, followed by P 3113 pulled by a class 82.

The Malaxa returned as P 3730 from Chisineu Chris and during the departue on the double track line to Arad met A 1834, which was double headed by two class 65s on this monday. The only semi-fast I didn't see operated by Desiro that day.

The two 65's departure sounded spectacularly thanks to EMD 8-710G engines. The drivers accelerated with full throttle, you could hear the train in the distance for minutes. That way I could get to like these modernized class 60s!

Next was the first daylight train on the line from Ineu, a RegioTrans Caravelle approached as P 14354 from Cermei. A marvelous view along the infinite row of telegraph masts towards the hazy mountains, only shortly before reaching Sântana junction the tracks performed a sharp s-curve.

Now I was already delighted by the nice diversity of vehicles, Romania still is a country where you don't exactly know what will be coming next. But the following highlight was not far away: I sat down at the station for a short train break. What was approaching? Well, a MARFA class 60 with freight train formed of Ukrainian UZ convertible gauge tank cars and a flatcar as automatic/chain coupling adapter on each end! Thankfully it even stopped for a short coffee break by the train drivers.

Apart from the freight there was maintenance work activity in the station area, partly carried out by vehicles which seemed to be self-built. I explored the mainline south of Sântana, right at the level crossing after the station ended I came across this fantastic motif. Telegraph lines are one of the main features in this area, sometimes they do not follow the tracks exactly. I had never seen such an extreme example, telegraph poles in a cemetary, although I am not sure which had been there first. In the background P 3114 from Oradea rolled towards Arad, again pulled by a class 65.

Behind the cemetary the line performed a sharp curve, the telegraph lines could take the shortcut, the RegioTrans Caravelle to Arad had to settle for the scenic route.

I followed the line along the edge of the village and waited for the next train from Arad, which was supposed to consist of a class 78-1xxx Malaxa. The sun burned without mercy and I regretted not to have taken a cap with me. P 3743 emerged in the distance out of the glimmering heat.

The modernized class 1000 Malaxa didn't pass the houses as fast as it may seem in this photo.

After a reversal stop of only a few minutes the railcar returned as P 3744 to Arad.

I took the route through the village back to the station, although life is simple here, people manage to brighten it up. Most streets are avenues, sidewalks lead along house walls with a strip of green between them and the roadway. Almost every house possesses a private bench, also typical are gutters on struts across the sidewalks. In the vicinity of the level crossing I met this horse-drawn cart which I easily managed to overtake without running. That's how this image was taken, completed with Caravelle and an old Dacia, some of which could still be seen out on the road.

Next I wanted to ride a train further north and sat down on a bench which looked like it had been torn out of a vehicle, I noticed this design more often along the way. The people I met were very friendly, despite the language barrier I had some conversations, the station master even brought me a complete timetable as a gift.

The class 1000 Malaxa arrived on its second trip as P 3745 to Chisineu Cris and took me to Nadab, a junction three stops away. Inside sadly all Malaxas have been updated with plastic seats, other than that the interior remained unchanged. It is unusually wide and still offers curtains for each window. During the ride a younger man told me his life story with the goal to gather some lei ("lions"). With his smell of alcohol the decision was not hard, as I also had not been to town yet and was only in possession of plastic it would have been impossible anyway. Passing Comlaus he showed me his house.

At Nadab the whole ancient infrastructure completed the rustic image, the only downside was a transit road running along the station with heavy lorry traffic. The railcar returned soon as P 3746 to Arad.

While the Malaxa was disappearing across the vast plains, RegioTrans P 14337 waited for departure to Graniceri. Connections between CFR and private companies are also well planned.

I had to capture this active pigeon cot with the next commuter to Graniceri, this time formed of an original Caravelle, newer and older version are being used by RegioTrans in mixed service. During the waiting period an older gentleman told me his life story, this time in Romanian, although he knew I didn't understand the language. However, it poses no problem with knowledge in Latin and other Romanic languages to get the gist of it. He showed my the prostetic leg he got thanks to the EU, overall sentiments towards the European Union were very positive in Romania.

P 3115 Timisoara - Oradea was again pulled by a class 65. I was standing on the branch line to Graniceri, clearly in worse shape than the mainline next to it.

The Malaxa returned as P 3747, shopping from the big city had to be carried home.

Waiting for the train, if not this one, as the Malaxa would not return to Arad for the next three hours. I wanted to get to the hotel earlier, so I waited for P 3116 from Oradea just as everybody else. Then train ran late, that's why a Desiro to Baia Mare blasted through the station first. "Mare" is no reference to the sea - which it can mean as well - , despite its Mediterranean sound, in this context it means "large". Thankfully CFR station masters know how to cross trains, unlike with some other railway companies. P 3116 arrived soon afterwards, Arad was reached quite on time. The train was well occupied, but not too full. I found a seat in a marroon-liveried coach, which I can recommend in comparison to the blue ones. The interior had been modernized, even if not in good shape, and the windows open. Shortly before entering Arad station we passed the loop of a cross-country tram, inside it a shepherd was watching some grazing goats.

After arrival at the station I wanted to get to the hotel quickly, but when I spotted a class 62 shunting in front of P 3117 to Oradea I hurried to find a motif for its departure. Inside the station area shadows had already taken over, but there were a lot of trails along the tracks leading to sunny spots away from the platforms. You just had to pass the guard dog at a stabling point where a class 80 was waiting (in the picture to the right), but he was soon called back by some worker. That way I could enjoy the Swiss beauty free of hassle, they even just seemed to have replaced the "F" in "CFF" using the same font...

The short local commuter to the border station Curtici appeared very posh consisting of a Koncar-built class 43 and a first class coach.

I did not acquire any information on Arad city traffic beforehand, so I was surprised by the extensive tramway network and the parade of mostly second hand German units. They often still wore their original livery, in Romania usually only a small yellow sign is painted on the front showing operating city and number.

A former OEG, before that Bielefeld, DUEWAG GT 6 in front of the nice main station building. Afterwards I started walking towards my hotel, at least that's what I thought I was doing. As it turned out the Best Western Central Hotel had been entered twice on Google maps, the position further away from the station close to town hall is the correct one! Finally I managed to reach it and spent a convenient, albeit short night, as I wanted to take the class 900 Malaxa next morning.

Walking along the main street to reach P 3729 at 5:57 a.m. I managed to capture more trams, here in front of the massive orthodox cathedral.

At the main station stop.

On platform one this RegioTrans Caravelle sporting a Cyrillic "Samba!" graffiti was waiting.

I was hurrying to the Malaxa which was only being frequented by two other early birds. The conductors once again checked tickets using a flashlight, only few lights were working inside the railbus.

I got ready and moved to the platforum at the end of the vehicle which can be converted into a cab to make bidirectional operation with just one unit possible. One stop behind Sântana, a part of the village called Comlaus, I sprinted out of the Malaxa and still could catch these silhouette shots using wide angle. The cloud cover was denser than it would ever be again the following week, but this contributed to a very nice mood. With the usual rattling and several gear changes the pair of rustic vehicles was set into motion. Thankfully even the rear headlights had been switched on.

View along the typical telegraph line into the distance, the lights were still coming from the Malaxa, but the local into the other direction would follow soon, so I quickly paced along the dirt road around the outskirts of Sântana. At the halt I met my friend from yesterday in the DMU, he did not even recognize me anymore, but at least his place of residence seemed to have been correct...

The line consisted of many straight parts broken by a few sharp curves, after the first one I found a clearing between some houses with view at the mountains and the sunrise mood above. Once more I had to evade two guard dogs, then P 3112 was already approaching, this time hauled by a class 60.

The northbound Desiro proved ideal for taking a closer look at the sunrise, then I walked back to the halt through the village. Comlaus seemed to be the run-down district of Sântana. Additionally, groups of two-three stray dogs could be found at every corner. However, they clearly were afraid of humans, probably out of bad experience and much more convenient than the property defending beasts.

P 3113 stopped at the minimalistic halt pulled by a class 82, a class 80/81 modernized by Alstom. For me the only ugly Romanian engine, especially in this bright orange.

A track walker got out of the train, as well as several other passengers, and started following the line towards Sântana. Soon I overtook him looking for a spot to catch the returning Malaxa. Sadly, I witnessed the most tragic scene of the trip here: along the dirt road a young puppy was waiting, I looked closer and thought there were several more in the ditch. But there was only the decaying body of its mother, a train wheel had severed her head. The fearful puppy hid behind the cadavre of its mother, trembling, and would not leave her side. Of course it broke my heart, but there was nothing to be done, especially not with this overpopulation of stray dogs...

On a cow pasture between the village parts I found a spot, soon the track walker came by, who had the hobby of balancing on the rails. We exchanged a few words, then P 3730 from Chisineu Cris was already approaching and accelerated right in front of me, while another cow was led to the herd.

The track walker greeting the train driver, in the background the orthodox church of Sântana.

A 1834 came by only pulled by one class 65 today.

An original Caravelle was forming RegioTrans P 14335 at the curve behind the end of the station. Then I walked to the station through town where I could witness some nice scenes, for example a garden plowed by horsepower.

Since I wanted to transfer to Timisoara over noon I took P 3114 back to Arad. At the last station before Arad, Utvinisu Nou, electrification started at a freight yard used by Unicom Tranzit. Here I could capture this great parade including 60-0001 (I don't know if it is really the first one built). However, I had already seen the same setting on the Malaxa ride, so nothing had moved since morning.

At Arad I first bought a cap as the sun shone brighter than expected in April. Then I obtained a reservation for IC 78 "Traianus" from Budapest, the next train to Timisoara. After showing my InterRail Pass the lady behind the counter finally understood that I only wanted to get a reservation, no ticket (which would not have been that cheap at 10 €). Traffic is partly thinner here than on the diesel line north, somewhere else there probably would be dense suburban train traffic on a 50 km line between two towns sporting populations of 150000 and 300000.
In the meantime the class 1000 Malaxa was preparing for its lunch trip to Sântana, here the list of temporary speed restrictions along the line.

Roof of the modernized DMU.

P 3743 left Arad for Sântana punctually, a Caravelle was waiting for further duties in the background.

The InterCity consisted of three CFR coaches and was quite empty. The ride led us via Aradu Nou on the single track line to Timisoara, pulled by 47-742 which was obviously constantly in premium border service equipped with an additional Romanian flag in the cab. Along the line I saw interesting spots in steppe-like landscape near Vinga, a rather run-down village. In the center suddenly an unexpected sight of obvious competition between religions: to scale, but still massive, a catholic neo-gothic cathedral and its orthodox counterpart next to each other inbetween measly-looking huts!
Soon we reached Timisoara Nord, the passengers of the train mostly fell into the juvenile-smart category.

At the station there was a lot to see, also several private locomotives, such as a former SNCF-Frêt engine, or a GFR class 81 (Grup Feroviar Român, they have a cool animation on their site: ) and a DB-Schenker Ludmilla. Inbetween there were several movements such as this CFR class 82 next to its unmodernized sister. Freight trains came by, as well as a class 65 hauling A 1837 and sleeper coaches from Iasi, departure at 8 p.m. the previous day.

RegioTrans Caravelles were as busy here as CFR trains, this is Banat region, one of the few areas in Europe where line density probably has not changed for a century. On the terminal tracks at the western end of the station I found my P 9593 to Jimbolia near the Serbian border, a double Malaxa 77-9xx, the first one in new bright yellow-green livery, the second one in red-gray, flaking, just like some of its passengers - more about the following rumbling ride in the second part of the report!


Thanks for sharing. I spent a couple of weeks in Romania a little over two years ago, although a different part of the country. I did spend one night in Iasi. I saw very few railroads that weren't under wire. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

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